It’s early May, 2009. I am sitting in front of the computer, keeping vigil for any change in the status of the online “waiting room” where I have been queued up all weekend to submit my request in CoSport’s lottery of tickets for the Vancouver Olympics. A world of avatars waits with me, divided by nationality, for their chance to bid on the chunk of tickets allocated to their country’s VANOC-approved ticket vendor. Thousands of them, myself included, log off empty handed.
In June, though, I receive an email informing me that my coworker’s roommate’s sister, a Canadian, spent her weekend in a similar digital waiting room inaccessible by Americans, on my behalf, and emerged victorious! I send a substantial check to this woman whom I’ve never met, and I am now officially Olympics bound!
It’s not just the athletes who have to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to gain access to Olympic events. Their trials are more strenuous and their successes more laudable, but Olympics spectators also face several primary-colored hoops to jump through to ascertain tickets and arrange accommodations.
The complex system established by the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) for the sale of Olympics tickets was intended to ensure a fair distribution of tickets; however, the phases of lotteries by nationality left many folks frustrated and confused. The next ticket phase starts November 7. Currently CoSport, the official vendor of Olympics tickets to US citizens, is taking ticket requests online, but the pickings are slim.
Fear not—you have other options. Stubhub.com, for example, is a site created to provide a relatively legitimate way of scalping tickets. Like Craiglist.org or eBay.com, Stubhub.com enables private parties to buy or sell tickets to events, except that Stubhub.com takes responsibility for verifying the authenticity of the tickets, so that you’ll never arrive at your event and be denied at the gate due to a counterfeit ticket.
However, keep in mind, as VANOC’s vice-president of ticketing, Caley Denton, has said, “selling tickets is against the terms and conditions of the ticket if it’s above face value. So if we can find out about it and trace it, we can invalidate the bar code.”
eBay and Craigslist also currently have many Olympics tickets for sale; however, neither of these sites will verify the tickets, so don’t mail a large cashier’s check to a stranger in Manitoba unless their eBay vendor rating is high enough to deserve your confidence in what they’re selling.
On Craigslist, many of the folks trying to unload tickets are also offering lodging/ticket combinations, renting their private condo or apartment in Vancouver or Whistler, and CoSport, though essentially sold out of tickets, still has several accommodations packages available that often include shuttle bus transportation to various event venues in the greater Vancouver and Richmond areas. Though most of the hotels in the downtown Vancouver area and Whistler are officially booked, the VANOC website states: “based on patterns observed at previous Olympic Games, some hotel properties may offer rooms closer to Games-time.”
Regardless of when you book, be prepared: most of the lodging opportunities you will find are pricey and require a minimum stay of up to a week, though you may be able to avoid these conditions if you consider in areas more removed from the events, like Squamish or Bellingham.
FOR GETTING AROUND:
Getting around Vancouver will be facilitated primarily by TransLink, the city’s integrated transportation system of buses and commuter trains. An extension of the Vancouver area light rail transportation system will allow for more attendees to stay in areas near the airport but still attend events in Richmond, and the bus system is being touted by VANOC as the best way to get around while you’re there.
If you can avoid taking a car to the greater Vancouver area, you should. The city of Vancouver is famously pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, and conversely it is not an easy city to negotiate via automobile. Traffic and weather conditions can expand the two and a half hour Sea to Sky drive easily to four or five hours and quickly clog the arterials through Vancouver. Beyond that, parking of private vehicles will be almost entirely forbidden at all Olympics venues, even if you are staying in a private residence at Whistler.
In fact, all Cypress ticket holders must travel to Cypress via the Olympic bus network, and the bus network is an economical option for traveling to Whistler, as well. More information, including prices and reservation services are available through the VANOC website as of November 24.
An additional daily Amtrak train from Seattle and the new SkyTrain route from Vancouver International Airport should enable you to arrive without your car.
However, if you are an RV owner, you may be able to access Whistler RV Park, which, due to negotiations with VANOC regarding this very issue of private vehicles, has not yet released its sites for reservations.
If you are not willing to battle the crowds and/or part with substantial sums of cash, you can still catch a moment of Olympic spirit locally. The Olympic torch relay passes through Canada a mere three hours north of Spokane, in Nelson on January 23, or a little closer in Rossland on January 24. Both Nelson and Rossland are charming towns with neighboring ski resorts (Whitewater and Red Mountain, respectively), and will be hosting “community celebrations” as the torch passes through on its way to Vancouver.